Speech recognition: the idle way to write or is it?

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Speech recognition: the idle way to write or is it?

ViaVoice versus Dragon

Speech recognition as come a long way in the past few years.  However, for most of us paying the prices for the state-of-the-art speech recognition software is still out of our price range for the amount of use we would port this software to.  I myself, only need speech recognition software to enable me to write a few emails and perhaps the occasional letter.  So, paying hundreds of pounds for professional speech recognition software is out of the question.  So I looked around for some older software.  I have got an old computer running on Windows 98 and on Ebay there was IBM's ViaVoice 98, brand-new never taken out of the box, speech recognition software.  I got this for only a few pounds.  However, I was never able to get the software to run properly on my computer.  It seemed to have a problem with my sound card. I changed my sound card but this didn't help matters. In the end I gave up and brought a new USB microphone of eBay.  This did not solve the problem.  The programme still insisted that there was a problem with the sound card.  I spent a couple of weeks, on and off trying to get this ViaVoice 98 working, I never did.

I saw on eBay ViaVoice 9 USB for sale.  I had read some reviewers of this software and they were all pretty good.  So I decided to buy.  It was less than £10, a bargain.  However, I found on installing this programme I had initially the same problem I had had with the ViaVoice 98 it still said there was something wrong with my sound card.  However, I was running this on my other computer which has windows XP as the operating system.  I then tried my new USB headphone microphone and ViaVoice 9 USB would not accept it.  I did however get the system to work.  On inspecting closely the setup wizard which comes with ViaVoice 9 USB I found that there were many references to some sort of IBM USB adapter for normal microphones.  I had one of these USB sound adapter plug-ins I had brought off eBay (not the IBM one)  some time ago to give sound back to my old laptop.  The USB sound adapter just plugs into your USB ports and then you plug your headphones into it.  When I did this ViaVoice 9 USB edition accepted my microphone!  I was then able to train the software and that was very long winded indeed.  However, after some hours, and I mean hours, and hours of training the software, it was quite usable with about 90 percent or so accuracy.  I believe this would get better the more you use the system.

I was browsing through eBay and found an advert for Dragon natural speaking version 5.  Well, Dragon NaturallySpeaking it up to about version 10 now.  So, version 5 is a bit long in the tooth now, but it was being sold for less than a fiver and it was new, never registered.  So I got myself a copy.  I didn't expect anything fantastic when I loaded it on to my windows XP computer.  I went to the microphone setup wizard with no problems and my analogue microphone was accepted.  I read through two of the training sessions and allowed the software to analyse my documents this took about an hour and a half of training,(Not all in one session)   then I began to dictate.  What a surprise I had!  About 90 percent of the words I spoke appeared before me as if by magic!  This was a much better response than I had had with ViaVoice.  I could not believe it!  A piece of software that was years old and less than a fiver that did what it said on the box.  The more you use Dragon 5 the better it gets.  I am up to about 95% accuracy at the moment.  Also, the system has no problem with my sound card in any of my computer I have tried it in.  It also works with my analogue headset microphone, my USB hybrid analogue microphone, and also my new USB microphone headset.  I have also played my handheld tape recorder into the computer using the microphone imports socket and Dragon natural speaking five understood about 85 percent of what my crackle tape-recorded voice was  saying.

I believe it is the best fiver I have ever spent on software!  However, there are a few problems, well not problems perhaps, just some little niggles. The Dragon software tries to think ahead and put the most likely word into place that you may use.  However, there is a little problem with this, if you dictate something the computer was not expecting, you may find you have an extra word.  This is not really a problem because you should read through what you have written before you send it off to someone else.  The more you use the system the less of a problem this is.  I also have found that when I breathe through my nose the system sometimes thinks I am saying the words "the"; that's my fault really for having a loud nose.  Dragon say that you are to speak in your normal tone of voice as if you were talking to someone else.  Whereas in the ViaVoice system you have to talk in the (there it is; that 'the'was my nose talking!) more of a one word at a time dictation method so the software can understand each word. 

There is another problem I have encountered with both the software packages above.  As far as I can tell there is no way to transfer your speech profiles from one computer to another (I could be wrong about this.  I no experts.) This means that you have two train each computer you put the programmes on.  Therefore, I would say the Dragon software is the easiest to set up and get working on a new computer.

Both ViaVoice and Dragon allow you to control the computer by VoiceCommands.  However, I have not tried this function out because I only wish to dictate letters and e-mails so I can't comment on how well it works.  I have used ViaVoice in Word and Dragon in Word and OpenOffice and they have worked quite well. However, they both work better in their respective Note Pads.

I hope the above will be of help to you.  This review has been written using Dragon 5 natural speaking software and I have not corrected any of the mistakes Dragon has done. That's why my spellings so good!  Good luck with your speech recognition.
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